Tag: Environment

Sunday set: Environmental journeys

Seeking knowledge …


I’ve been reporting on the environment for 21 years, so it’s not surprising that, even when I’m traveling on vacation, I tend to see nearly everything through a certain prism. That may be a blessing and a curse at the same time. It might be nice, every now and then, to completely tune out from the world’s problems and just live hedonistically. On the other hand, I feel like I can really connect with the people and places I’m seeing by understanding them in an environmental context. And in reality, I don’t really separate work and play all that much anymore. This past summer’s trek through the Austrian Alps to learn about climate change and sustainable mountain agriculture was a wonderful experience. Being a journalist gives me an excuse to exercise my curiosity. You can read about the environment and culture of the Austrian Alms here, and learn more about melting Arctic ice may affect you in this story

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EU warns of persistent air quality violations

5 countries now on notice face potential legal action

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Clouds and haze over Vienna, Austria, where particulate air pollution often exceeds standards set to protect human health. @bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

Five large EU countries are on warning after repeatedly failing to meet air pollution  standards for nitrogen oxide, a precursor to smog and a serious health risk in and of itself. If Member States fail to act within two months, the Commission may decide to take the matter to the Court of Justice of the EU.

Studies have shown that more than 400,000 people die prematurely each year due to poor air quality, while millions more suffer from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Persistently high levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) caused almost 70 000 premature deaths in Europe in 2013, which was almost three times the number of deaths by road traffic accidents in the same year.

Because of the persistent breaches, the European Commission this week sent final warning to  Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, urging those countries to improve air quality and safeguard public health.

Continue reading “EU warns of persistent air quality violations”

Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally

Findings to help guide conservation strategies

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Many carnivore species around the world are threatened by road networks. Photo courtesy USFWS.

Staff Report

The threat of roads to carnivore species around the world has been seriously underestimated, according to a new study that looked at the issue on a global scale.

After looking at 232 carnivore species around the world (out of a total of about. 270 existing species) and assessing how severely these are affected by roads cut through their habitat, the researchers concluded that some rare species are even at risk in areas with low road densities. The study, published in the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography, calculated natural mortality rates, reproduction and carnivore movement patterns, determining the maximum density of roads that a species can cope with. Continue reading “Study says road threat to carnivores is underestimated globally”

Coal ash pollution poisoning fish in North Carolina

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Toxic pollution from coal-fired power plants builds up in fresh water fish. @bberwyn photo.

Trump’s proposed Cuts to federal regulations likely to lead to more environmental woes

Staff Report

Coal ash waste is poisoning fish in North Carolina lakes, scientists said this week announcing findings from a new study supported in part by the EPA. The research by scientists from Duke University showed that potentially harmful levels of selenium are building up because of emissions from coal-fired power plants.

“Across the board, we’re seeing elevated selenium levels in fish from lakes affected by coal combustion residual effluents,” said Jessica Brandt, a doctoral student in environmental health at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study, published this month in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Continue reading “Coal ash pollution poisoning fish in North Carolina”

Sunday set: Mountain love

Go higher …


Time revisit a couple of favorite mountains scenes in the Summit Voice archives, and time to remember that global warming is going alter some mountain landscapes irrevocably, not it the far distant future, but within a few decades. For example, a new study shows how warming will alter basic soil chemistry by speeding up microbial activity and shifting the balance of key nutrients. This will displace some plants and probably eliminate others. And as much as we appreciate forested landscapes, climate change is driving the spread of tree-killing insects, as shown by the latest aerial survey of Colorado forests. Check out more environmental and nature photography from Summit Voice at our online gallery, or visit the Sunday Set archives.

Pollution from China disrupts ocean ecosystems

Shifting nutrient balance shapes plankton blooms

A plankton bloom in the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea. Photo courtesy NASA.
A plankton bloom in the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea. Photo courtesy NASA.

Staff Report

Pollution from Chinese factories is changing the nutrient balance in the ocean, say scientists who studied depositions of chemicals and plankton blooms in the East China Sea. These waters are increasingly threatened by harmful algal blooms that choke off vital fish populations, according to the new study, led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.

“There has been massive growth in emissions from China’s factories and cars over the past few decades, and what comes out of the smokestacks and tailpipes tends to be richer in nitrogen than phosphorus,” said Katherine Mackey, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and lead author of the study, published recently in Frontiers in Marine Science. Continue reading “Pollution from China disrupts ocean ecosystems”

Non-native species invade Mediterranean through newly enlarged Suez Canal

Scientists warn of ecosystem, health impacts

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Port Cros National Park, France. A new study says native marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean are at risk from non-native species invading via the Suez Canal. @bberwyn photo.

Staff Report

Scientists say the 2015 expansion of the Suez Canal has enabled non-native species to swarm into the Mediterranean, potentially impacting fisheries and human health.

“The Mediterranean Sea is the most invaded marine basin in the world. The number of non-indigenous species greatly increased between 1970 and 2015. 750 multicellular non-indigenous species were recorded in the Mediterranean Sea, far more than in other European seas, because of the ever-increasing number of Red Sea species introduced through the Suez Canal,” said Bella Galil of the Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies. “This raises concerns about the increasing introductions of additional NIS and associated degradation and loss of native populations, habitats and ecosystem services.” Continue reading “Non-native species invade Mediterranean through newly enlarged Suez Canal”